The World Open Water Swimming Association was privy to the tremendously detailed log that Gary Emich has compiled of his 761 solo swims to and from Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.

It is impressive. Extremely impressive.

His log – presented in an Excel spreadsheet – provides information on each and every Alcatraz swim he has ever done – in order with the data, length of the swim, water temperature, start time and comparison of start time relative to the high and low tides, maximum ebb or flood current and the slack tide (i.e. when the current stops flowing one way and begins to reverse), as well as his comments.

His record-keeping and diligence is an outstanding bit of record-keeping to share with the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the rest of the global open water swimming community, although Gary is low-key and humble about his intentions. “I never intended it to be for publication – it was just my way of (1) documenting my swims, and (2) giving me a historical reference so that if I were going to do another swim under similar tidal conditions I’d at least know what happened previously.”

What is amazing is that he grouped into 15 different categories and routes, proving he really knows his stuff out there in San Francisco Bay.

For example, on his swim #35 on April 23rd 1999, he swam for 40 minutes and 49 seconds in 55.0F water with a start time of 10:16 am which was 2 hours 49 minutes before high tide (a 5.1 foot difference between the high tide and the low tide that day), 1 hour and 10 minutes before the max 3.6 knot ebb tide, and 5 hours and 17 minutes before slack (i.e., the beginning of the incoming 3.3 knot flood).

Details, details, those are the little things that make experienced open water swimmers great – whether it is the thought-process behind their pre-race planning, their concentration on their stroke techniques or the subtle ways they can utilize the power of tides, waves and surface chop.

Copyright © 2011 by World Open Water Swimming Association